Local News

Chimneys Sing With Sound Of Swifts

Posted July 14, 2003 10:01 a.m. EDT

— You could have some unwelcome house guests hiding in your chimney.

Chimney swifts

can be recognized by the racket they make.

It is against the law to get rid of the birds; however, they could cost thousands if they are ignored.

Chimney swifts are birds that nest in chimneys during the summer months.

"If you have a clean chimney with no cap this time of year, you've got chimney swifts," chimney sweep Scott Davis said.

Davis gets thousands of phone calls every summer from people who want to get rid of the birds. Federal laws state they cannot be removed.

"You can build a fire, but you're killing babies. There's a $15,000 fine per egg or bird harmed. We're not about to lose our business over that," he said.

Homeowners said the sound could make you lose your mind, but the droppings they leave behind can actually make you sick.

"I've lost part of my right lung to a disease called histoplasmosis. It's because I've got my head up a chimney quite a bit and I used to not wear a respirator," Davis said.

How do you know if you have chimney swifts? Paul Tillman, who calls himself a "Critter Getter," said all you have to do is listen.

"The baby birds have got a high-pitched chattering sound. I can't really make the sound, it's really high-pitched," he said.

Chimney swifts should fly the coop by mid-August. Until then, experts said close the flue and turn a deaf ear to the fireplace. They also suggest covering the fireplace in plastic to prevent the spread of disease. Once the birds fly out, install a cap so they cannot come back.